IT Jobs: Data Center Hiring Turns a Corner

Amidst slight growth in the IT sector this year, data center workers with broad expertise should do well. Security, cloud, backup and disaster recovery pros are now in demand.

Driven to austerity in an economy that only recently appears ready to expand again, companies will likely hire slightly more data center workers this year, according to experts.

Yet, would-be staff will find themselves buffeted by two opposing forces in their new roles: Management pressure to keep budgets low and a growing need for workers who can navigate the confluence of technologies flowing into the datacenter. Corporations adopting new technologies—such as virtualization, data protection, identity systems and cloud computing—are requiring different skills of job seekers, say experts.

"Workers are being asked to manage more systems and deal with new technologies that are being introduced, while datacenters are being asked to do more things for the business and provide better service levels," says Sean Derrington, director of enterprise product management for Symantec.

40 Percent Say Staffing a Struggle

The conclusions come from an annual study conducted by the security and IT giant. Almost half of companies counted budget as a major issue for 2010, while nearly 40 percent had trouble finding qualified staff, according to Symantec's 2010 State of the Data Center report which surveys IT managers at more than 1,700 companies worldwide. In another report released in March, Forrester Research focused on the same two forces, along with outsourcing, as the major drivers of IT staffing in the coming year.

In 2009, experts predicted that candidates with experience in improving IT energy efficiency, or green IT, and in managing virtual servers to do well. Yet, hiring in the technology sector dropped toward the end of the year, says Rony Kahan, co-founder and CTO of job-listing site Indeed.com.

"The last six months of 2009 were not good," Kahan says. "Green (IT) had a big surge at the beginning of last year, and it definitely leveled off."

Cloud a Hot Skill

Now, that's finally changing. In 2010, job postings for the information technology industry have jumped 17 percent year over year, with clicks on postings up 27 percent, according to Indeed.com's statistics. Jobs listing "cloud computing" ranked No. 2 in the site's lists of most popular job postings.

"We are seeing continued strength in virtualization," Kahan says. "And the term 'network engineer' is one of the top-10 titles, in terms of what job seekers are clicking on."

Research firm Computer Economics anticipates a 2 percent growth in IT positions over the next year. Yet, application programmers, a category that includes those who write custom applications for data centers, continues its decade-long decline, says John Longwell, vice president of research for Computer Economics.

"More off-the-shelf and less custom work is certainly part of it, and offshoring accounts from some of it, but not as much as you would think," Longwell says.

Workers that focus on security, backup and disaster recovery are in demand, says Symantec's Derrington. More than 80 percent of companies called security a top priority in the data center, with backup and recovery and continuous data protection ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

"There are a few initiatives that seem to be top-of-mind, those having to do with mitigating risk or reducing capital costs," Derrington says.

While the demand is not across the board in data center jobs, overall the market for staffing is trending positive, he says.

"It looks like we've turned a corner, and we are looking at more jobs and more opportunities in the data center," Derrington says.

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